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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dominican Seafood and Dumplings in Coconut Sauce

As far as Dominican food goes, it's easy to believe that such a small island has a homogeneous national cuisine.  In fact, to think that actually is partially correct. There is a basic sazon (seasoning) that is used all over the country and a huge shared repertoire of braised meats, casseroles, soups, and stews.  However, if you take a closer look, there are some important regional variations.

The Cibao Valley region is known for its heavy use of plantains.  In the Southwest, near the border, there is more Haitian influence, so food tends to be somewhat spicy, whereas traditional Dominican food is anything but spicy.  In the capital, there are many more immigrants, so beloved dishes such as quipe (the Dominican version of kibbeh), and tipili (Tabbouleh) from Lebanese immigrants, as well as chofan (chow fan) from the Chinese immigrants first entered the Dominican kitchen there and are now enjoyed all over the nation.

Finally, in the East, where there is the highest concentration of sugar plantations, there is much more West Indian influence from the cocolos (West Indian immigrants) who came to cut sugar cane before the cane cutting labor force became primarily Haitian in the mid 1900s.  There is also more Haitian influence for the same reason.  As a result, there is a greater use of flour preparations, such as dumplings being added into sancocho (as they are in similar Haitian dishes) and full dumpling-based dishes (such as domplines ahogados) as well as johnny cakes, or yaniqueques from the West Indian influence.

In Samana, West Indian-influenced favorites include ginger beer and conconete (sweet spiced coconut bread rounds) in addition to yaniqueques.   Samana (in the east), because it hasan abundance of coconut trees, and I believe the highest concentration of coconut trees in the world, is famous for dishes using coconut milk.  Among these dishes is  their famous pescado con coco or fish in coconut sauce (see past post), which has become beloved all over the nation.

So, as I was looking up information about the Southwest, I came across a recipe from the region. The recipe was for something I'd never had before, domplines sancristobaleros (San Cristobal style dumplings) or Domplin de PicaPica (picapica is the name for sardines sold in a spicy tomato sauce). These dumplings are in finger-like oblong shapes and are added to a stew of shrimp, sardines in tomato sauce, corn, coconut milk, and Dominican sazon.  Dominican sazon consists of about a 1:2 ratio of parsley to cilantro, along with onion, garlic, cubanelle pepper, oregano, tomato paste, and sometimes celery and/or celery leaf.

End result--a rich, lightly creamy, flavorful broth with tender seafood and dumplings.

This recipe was adapted from: (you can find a photo here as well)

Domplines de PicaPica

Ingredients for Stew:
1 smoked pork chop, cubed
4 cans of sardines in tomato sauce (I prefer without bones, if possible, otherwise, you can opt to leave the bones or carefully remove by hand)
1 lb of shrimp
1/4 cup or just over of diced onion
1/3 cup or so of finely diced cubanelle pepper
half a habanero or scotch bonnet pepper (Since pica pica is not easily found in the US, we have to make it spicy ourselves)
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp chopped parlsey
1/2 to 3/4 can of corn (or get the half size can), drained
1 can of coconut milk
2/3 - 3/4 cup of water
1 TB fresh lime juice
a pinch of oregano (less than 1/8 tsp)

1 Cup of flour
warm water (or you could use milk, but that's not the traditional way) to form dumplilng dough
1/2 tsp baking powder (optional--traditionally, Dominican dumplings are harder than American, but I prefer more tender ones and baking powder helps with this)
oil (butter would likely make them even more tender, but oil is traditional)

Water for Boiling Dumplings
2-3 cloves of garlic, slice in half or smashed
5 sprigs of cilantro

Bring to a boil a pot of water with cilantro, garlic, salt, and oil.  Meanwhile, mix 1 cup of flour with water, oil, salt, and baking powder.  Drop the dumplings into the seasoned boiling water, stirring occasionally.  Let boil until they rise to the surface.  Remove from the water and set aside.

Sautee the onions and peppers, salted, over medium low heat until translucent.  Add in the garlic and herbs and sautee for about 20-30 seconds.  Sometimes I like to add 2/3 of the herbs in now and add the rest just before adding the coconut milk.

Add in the cubed smoked pork chop and sautee a bit for it to pick up the flavor of the sazon.  Add in the corn and lime and sautee until it has a chance to absorb the flavors.  Add in the water and the shrimp and sautee until almost cooked.

Add in the habanero pepper, four cans of sardines, with the tomato sauce they are canned in.  Remove some of ingredients from the stew (preferably the shrimp so they don't overcook) to make room for the coconut milk to be distributed.  Add in the coconut milk and gently blend it in.

Add in the reserved dumplings and let the dish sautee a bit so that the flavors blend.

Taste for salt and pepper and enjoy!  Serve with tostones (twice fried green plantains--if you are clueless on this, comment and I'll help) and a slice of lime to squeeze over the top.

*Maps are the property of


  1. Great post and recipe! I have always been fascinated by finding curry dishes in Santo Domingo, nice breakdown of the cultural influences present

  2. Thanks, BaconGrease, where are you from? After making this recipe, I'm dying to be all of these places in the DR and get all of these Dominican snacks I can't get here, haha. It got me all nostalgic, lol.

  3. Couldnt agree more with that, very attractive article

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  4. Thanks for the compliment, gareclog, glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Looking forward for more recipes for my Mexican wife, I'm Dominican and she love to surprise me with a Dominican dish but she dose not have a clue about Dominican food and this web site have already have help her already. Great post.

  6. Haha, that's cute! That's very sweet that she's trying to learn. Go her! I'm so glad that she has found my recipes helpful :). Thank you both for checking out my blog. Let me know how things turn out. I will try to find a way for people to share their recipe pics.

  7. I am an American my mother is Swedish and my Dad is Italian decent, I lived in Moca 6 yrs in 90's from 26 yrs old till 32yrs. I went everywhere on the island and tried almost every Dominican dish they made. My favorite is Berenjena Guisada or Stewed Eggplant over white rice and Pollo Al Carbon with Cassava bread and vinegared red onions(cebolla con vinagre). This dish you posted here with the seafood I had eaten a few times but without the nasty sardines or Picapica...yuk!!! That was considered "poor people food' by other Dominicans, lol! I had it instead with local caught whitefish, fresh shrimp and longaniza sausage or Chuleta, it was very good...muy rico. I hated the plantains but I did like the Yuca. The Platano Malduro pastelon with sweet plantain is good but the regular unripe ones taste like a green banana to me. The kippe which look like little "mierda da chivos" or sheep poop were OK, bola de yuca, ok. Pollo guisado was delicious always, ,Sancocho, Mondongo, Lambil Guisada, Mofongo de chiccarones or shrimp...all really good. Chiccarones, Pica de Pollo, Chimichurri, Yannicakes, Hot Dog Dominicano,Pastelon en Hoja, Pollo Al Carbon, Cho Fan or Dominican Chinese fried rice(not that good), Taco and Pizza...the Dominican pizza is the worst in world!!! It is pretty bad. The Dominican birthday and wedding cake is the very best cake in the world! The things I didn't like were, Pata de Vaca soup..gross. Moro or rice mixed with beans, although I did like Guandules beans but not mixed into the rice. I hated mangu de platano or mashed plantains. I did not like the Batata it is very dry and not the texture of a normal sweet potato. Their spaghetti is probably the worst I have had in the world!! It is soft and greasy and just taste like tomato paste. You could not serve it in the USA. They serve it with rice and beans!!!! Yuk! I like their fried cheese but it is very salty. The Salami is nasty, not like good Italian salami. All the fruit is the best. Drink bottled water only the public water if they have it tastes like bleach. If you really want American food go to Tropi Burger in Santo Domingo...they make a Guapo that tastes just like a BK Whopper! The fried chicken is better than KFC, the ice cream is the best ever! Lots of good food but also a lot of rather bland dishes, they don't like anything that is hot and spicy. They don't even put black pepper on table at home or restaurants. I'd highly recommend you try the food and the people are great!

    1. Zero spicy food in most of the country, besides the border region. So true! People freaked out when I put hot sauce in my sancocho. I actually really enjoyed the pizza haha. I tried it at a place near the San Pedro malecon. The batata is to dieeee for! It's so sweet and yummy! It is drier but, to me, it tasted like sweet potato pie but without the spices. No sugar, no butter, just plain good.

  8. I agree with most things you said, I am Austrian/British, married to a Dominican living here nearly 8 years, I cook Dominican food and enjoy most of it, but there are thing which awful like you say the Spaghetti its is terrible so over cooked and tasteless and greasy!!!
    But unlike you love plantain Mangu,frities, love Moro, I like the dumplings too, hate the Salami yuk!!!!hate rice every day!!!
    But on a whole the food is ok!!!